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5 Reasons Hunters Don’t Take Elk Day 2: Not Preparing Your Elk Equipment

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Editor’s Note: This week, Ryan “Reno” Capps, a longtime elk guide, who lives when not guiding in the Loudon/Fort Sill area of Oklahoma, tells us reasons hunters don’t take elk. “I’ve been hunting elk since 1997, when I went to New Mexico and started guiding. The company’s Facebook page I work for is Black Mountain Hunts LLC and (also reachable at http://www.blackmtnhunts.com/), and we have about 400,000 private acres where we hunt. One of the ranches we lease is 250,000 acres, one of the biggest ranches in New Mexico. We also have a bunch of combined properties that adjoin the 250,000 acres. I mainly guide in Units 12 and 13, where I’ve been hunting since 2005. Elk hunters can draw tags and have us guide for them, but we also have guaranteed elk owner tags. Here are some reasons hunters don’t get their elk when they come West.” (Reno’s email is [email protected]).

Some hunters aren’t prepared with the proper equipment, which is another reason they may not take elk. You never can start getting ready for an elk hunt too early. For instance, some hunters may buy brand-new bows or rifles, get to New Mexico and learn their bows or rifles aren’t dead-on. Perhaps a screw has fallen out or gotten loose. Then they’re in a mess – like Murphy’s Law – whatever can happen, will happen.

No one ever can practice shooting enough with a bow or a rifle. Most hunters don’t practice shooting from different angles/positions because what most hunters dream of is waiting for an elk, having plenty of time to find an elk and getting ready to take a shot. They think the bulls will walk straight in, and they’ll get their shots. But that’s not how elk act. This scenario may happen, but it’s the exception, not the rule. You’ll have to do the best you can to prepare for any type of shot you may get on an elk, with either your bow or rifle.

Elk hunters

Black Mountain Outfitters (BMO) has guaranteed cow tags, if someone prefers to take home an elk for meat. However, the trophy hunts and guides you’ll want are generally booked a year before these hunts take place. Cow tags usually cost about $3,000 for a three-day hunt, however, you’re almost guaranteed a cow elk. Even then, you need to prepare by doing your homework and making sure all your equipment is working perfectly when you leave home.

Realize the Importance of Wearing Proper Boots: Don’t buy brand-new boots that you only have worn once or twice, and expect them to work properly if you need to walk 6-8 miles in a day. You will get blisters. Then, you’ll have problems with those blisters for the next five or six days of your hunt.

Hunting boots

Have a Properly Filled Daypack: I tell all my hunters they need to pack a lightweight rain suit in their daypacks. At the first of the season, rainstorms will happen that we may not know about when we leave camp. A lightweight, packable rain suit can not only help you stay dry but also will stop the wind and keep you warmer.

Take a Fire Starter: I always suggest that my hunters take matches or some form of fire starter they can use, if they get separated from me. Then they can stay warm, until I find them.

Have Enough Water: One of the biggest mistakes of elk hunters is not carrying enough water in their daypacks. We don’t sweat much on our hunts in the early season. However, because of the dry climate where we live and hunt, that dry weather pulls moisture from our bodies. If you don’t replace the moisture with plenty of water, you’ll get tired quicker, may become sick and/or may have other problems related to dehydration.

John Phillips drinking water while hunting

Some State Deadlines for Elk Tags: (as of February 2023)

  • Alaska – December 15, 2023 for 2024;
  • Arizona – February 14, 2023;
  • Arkansas – June 1, 2023;
  • California – June 21, 2023;
  • Colorado – April 3, 2023;
  • Idaho – June, 2023;
  • Kentucky – April 30, 2023;
  • Michigan – June 1, 2023;
  • Minnesota – dates available mid-May, 2023;
  • Missouri – May 31, 2023;
  • Montana – April 1, 2023;
  • Nebraska – Not available at this writing;
  • Nevada – May 10, 2023;
  • New Mexico – March 22, 2023;
  • Oklahoma – Not available at this writing;
  • Oregon – May 15, 2023;
  • Pennsylvania – July 31, 2023;
  • South Dakota – Days are subject to change; refer to hyperlink
  • Tennessee – February 22, 2023;
  • Utah – April 27, 2023;
  • Virginia – March 30, 2023;
  • Washington – May 17, 2023; and
  • Wyoming – January 31, 2023.

Tomorrow: Being Physically Fit to Hunt Elk

Expert Guidebooks on Elk Hunting: Best Sellers

Secrets for Hunting Elk
The quickest, easiest (if there is an easy way), and safest way to find and take that bull elk of a lifetime will be to hunt with a guide.

Chad Schearer, a longtime Montana guide and TV personality, told me, “My hunter is my gun. If I get to the elk, and my hunter isn’t with me, then we don’t take the elk. My job is not only to find the elk but also to help the hunter get to the elk and make the experience as enjoyable as I can for him.” That’s the kind of fella with whom I want to go elk hunting. 

An elk hunt can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be so tough that you don’t enjoy it. That’s why this elk hunting book starts with the confessions of an elk guide and with Chad Schearer’s philosophy of what the guide and the hunter’s relationship should be.

A good portion of your success will depend on your physical condition, and Matt Morrett of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania explains how an eastern hunter can get ready physically during June and July to hunt western elk, the animals he describes as, “Like deer or turkeys on steroids.”

Wayne Carlton, well-known elk hunter and TV and video personality from Montrose, Colorado, tells us what types of elk calls to use and what to say to the elk. Mike Miller of Colorado, another elk guide and Mossy Oak video personality, has tactics for the best equipment for bowhunting and gun hunting elk.

You’ll learn helpful strategies and hunting tips in this book, as well as some straightforward hunting methods that will help to make your elk hunt more successful.

“Thanks to the advice in your elk hunting books, I was able to call up a nice 6-point (6X6) bull elk! He was bugling like crazy. I called him in from about a ¼ mile away. Called him into bow range (about 40 yards away). It was a thrill!” ~Rob Brannon


Elk: Keys to 25 Hunters’ Success
Often just one tip or tactic makes the difference in whether you take an elk home to dinner or have to hike back to the truck by yourself. In John E. Phillips’ latest elk book, Elk: Keys to 25 Hunters’ Success, you’ll learn from successful elk hunters the strategies they use to find and take elk.

Many know that the technique that seems to work most often is to hunt where other elk hunters don’t and understand where the elk are before you go on a hunt by studying data from each state, visiting HuntData (see chapter 1), examining maps, and reading postings on elk forums.

This book also tells you how to get ready physically for an elk hunt, including participating in Train to Hunt Competitions, what gear you need to take, how to enjoy a successful do-it-yourself elk hunt, or how to pick the best elk guide for you. You’ll also hear about the X System and the Broken Y System of hunting elk. 

Although no one person has all the answers on how to help you find and take your elk, I’m convinced that this book’s outdoors men and women will teach you how to have satisfying elk hunts.

As my friend Karl Badger once told me, “Elk hunting doesn’t get any better than when I ride horses into the high backcountry, see two grizzly bears, hear a pack of wolves howl close to camp all night long, eat plenty of delicious food prepared on a fire and enjoy the company of good friends.”


How to Find Your Elk and Get Him in Close will teach you the tactics of 10 nationally known elk hunters, to help put that giant bull that’s been screaming at you from afar, in your lap. You’ll learn what some of the best guides, outfitters, and successful elk hunters do to find elk and get them in really close.

Also in this audiobook, you’ll notice that the majority of the experts call elk to within bow range. We selected numerous bowhunters and bowhunting guides, since the bowhunter has to get much closer to a bull than the gun hunter does – often less than 20 or 30 yards – practically in your lap.

On one elk hunt, I’d heard this bull bugle all morning. My guide had called him within 30 yards, and he was standing just inside black timber. I saw the smoke from his nose wafting out into the icy air less than 30-yards away. All the bull had to do was step out, and I could take the shot with my bow. But then, through no fault of my guide or me, the bull vanished.

The only conclusion I could come up with to understand why the bull I wanted to take with my bow hadn’t stepped out and given me a shot, was because he got raptured. He evidently had left the earth with no trace of himself.

This hunt was when I started wanting to learn more about hunting elk up close. In this book, I’ve tried to find some of the most knowledgeable, experienced, and practical elk hunters. I’ve always found that the best way to learn any outdoor skill, is to either hunt or fish with the best sportsmen in that field.

Often, in elk hunting, that means elk guides, who generally hunt every day of the season and receive a salary for every hunter they guide. So, I’ve put together a group of some of the best elk hunters I know to help us all learn how to find bull elk and get them in close.


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